Interview With…Gina Beck and Neil McDermott

The West End stars chatted to Emma Clarendon about creating The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas.

Thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me a little more about The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas?  It’s the story of an elf called Cupcake who is afraid of the arrival of Christmas Eve when she knows she has to deliver presents to all the children and how another Elf, Figgy, uses his Christmassy ways to help her overcome her fears. All culminating in a Christmas concert, of course! It is a show for children of all ages that will get families into the Christmas spirit during these tough times.

Why did you want to create the show? Following the closure of the theatres in March and as time went on, it became obvious that we weren’t going back to work any time soon, so we started brainstorming ideas about how to remain creative and to feel like we had a purpose again. We originally thought we might do a Christmas concert in our local village hall, which got expanded to a Christmas show for children which amazingly ended up being a professional production at The Charing Cross Theatre.

 How did the idea for The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas come about? The inspiration for the idea of our show actually came from a conversation with a student of The Mishmak Youth Theatre (run by Neil and his wife) who was telling a story about how she was scared of Christmas. We were really interested in the contradiction of this story, so decided to adapt the idea to a couple of elves, one of which is scared of Christmas. There is a running theme in the show about anxiety and how to cope with anxiety and how to overcome your fears. We feel this is a really important issue, especially in these times, for children, and we hope our show will not only be enjoyable for families but may also give some insight into ways of coping with anxiety.  

It seems incredible that since you met performing at the National Youth Music Theatre you both haven’t worked with each other since. How did you get in touch again? By sheer coincidence we ended up living in the same Berkshire village four years ago and became friends again after having performed together in the National Youth Music Theatre over twenty years ago. We actually bumped into each other for the first time at our kid’s gymnastics class!

How much are you looking forward to being back on stage again?  It’s been brilliant watching our own show we’ve created from scratch slowly jump each hurdle and feel it come together to become a full scale professional show. There isn’t a better feeling than creating something original. And we look forward to welcoming audiences to share our story. Obviously we’ve really missed performing, but getting to perform again in something we’ve created ourselves is incredible.

What do you love about Christmas? Well interestingly part of our show asks 3 children what they love most about Christmas via Santa’s Archive of video messages! I’m sure for most children they would say presents, or thingymajigs as Cupcake would call them (you’ll have to come watch the show to see what I mean). But for us, we love performing at Christmas, taking our kids to Christmas events, the theatre, music events, Ice skating, Christmas markets. Getting out and about as a family and enjoying the festivities and getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s everyone’s favourite time of the year but especially children, and to see our respective children so happy makes us parents happy too. Oh and the food of course, we love Christmas food!

Why should people come along and see The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas? After the year we’ve had it’s good to spend some time together and a shared experience will be very valuable right now. We are suitable for children of ALL ages and are looking forward to helping families make Christmas just as special as any other year. Please do come down and see us, and know that by doing so you’ll be supporting theatre and its freelancers during these times. With thanks in advance! Neil and Gina. xx

By Emma Clarendon

The Elf Who Was Afraid of Christmas is set to play at the Charing Cross Theatre from the 8th to the 23rd December.

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